FRCA Synod 2018 was the first synod I’ve ever attended as a delegate. In Canada I observed many of the sessions of Synod Neerlandia 2001 — I was there when they made the big decision to enter into ecclesiastical fellowship with the OPC. I also attended once or twice at Synod Burlington 2010. But this was my first synod as a delegate and in this post I’d like to share some thoughts on that experience.
Going into it, I had the impression it would be interminably tedious. I don’t enjoy sitting for long periods of time and I’m not a real lover of meetings. But this was surprisingly…exciting. From where I was sitting, it was fast-paced and varied. Delegates had to be quick-thinking because we went from one topic to another at what seemed like 100 mph. Truth is, if anything, I was being over-stimulated. At night I’d go to sleep and still be deliberating at a nocturnal session of synod.
I was also hugely impressed with the way the synod was organized by the convening church of Bunbury, with the help of the hosting church of Southern River. Together they did a fantastic job with all the background stuff. The facilities at the Southern River church were as good as one can hope for at an assembly like this. The food was incredible — on the last evening, we even had Thai Red Curry and Bulgogi Beef. It just doesn’t get any better. The next convening church is Albany and I feel a wee bit sorry for them because it’s going to be hard to measure up to what we enjoyed at this synod.
We finished up in good time — starting on a Monday evening and ended the following Tuesday evening. There was a huge agenda, but we got through it quickly and responsibly. I attribute this to three factors. First, we had a capable chairman working with a competent executive. There was knowledge and experience at the helm. Second, the executive appointed four advisory committees. These committees dealt with the more difficult items on the agenda. They listened to a first round of discussion and then drafted proposals which tried to capture the consensus. This made the process of arriving at a decision go smoothly in most instances. Third, we made excellent use of technology. Every synod delegate brought a laptop computer and we were all networked into a main synod computer. Internal synod e-mails flew around with proposals, motions, and amendments. When a delegate would make an amendment, it would be on our screens in seconds. It was brilliant.
The delegates all interacted harmoniously. Sometimes I felt like I was back in seminary — not surprising since I had studied with a number of the ministerial delegates. We didn’t always agree, but there was mutual respect and plenty of good-natured banter, especially about such things as Aussie vs. Canadian spellings. We had some good laughs. Elders make up half a synod and they weren’t just some pretty faces along for the ride — they were intensely involved in the discussions as well. Moreover, most of the important decisions were made by unanimous agreement. I really enjoyed spending the week with these brothers! God blessed us with great fellowship and a pleasant atmosphere.
I also enjoyed the opportunity to meet old and new friends from overseas. Two of the fraternal delegates (Rev. Arend Witten from the CanRC and Rev. Namtuck Chong from Singapore) were former parishioners of mine while they were studying in Hamilton. There were two Filipino brothers observing, brothers whom I count as good friends. I finally had the opportunity to meet in person the Rev. Jack Sawyer from the OPC. Other overseas delegates I was pleased to meet for the first time were brothers like Rev. C. Koster and Rev. M. Sneep from the DGK, Rev. P. Archbald from the RCNZ, and br. G. Swets from the URCNA.
Synod is now in my rear-view mirror and it was an all-round positive experience. It was intense, a whole heap of work, but rewarding. My prayer is that the gracious King of the church would bless our decisions and use them for the advance of the gospel, the good of his people, and the glory of his Name. Would I want to be delegated again? Definitely!